The demand for such fellowships has grown as the demands on trauma surgeons have grown. Surgical emergencies that used to be handled by specialists in thoracic, gastrointestinal, plastic or general surgery are now frequently performed by trauma surgeons.
A study of surgeons at 90 U.S. academic medical centers showed that trauma surgeons perform a variety of urgent procedures, including gallbladder removal, hernia repair, appendix removal and spleen repair and removal. In addition to operating room surgeries, trauma surgeons often perform bedside procedures such as placing drainage tubes in chests or catheters in veins.
Dr. McNickle says the training she received from Dr. Fraser -- she refers to him as her mentor -- was both taxing and rewarding. “He sets very high standards for himself and for fellows. He pushes you to be your best. He challenges you. He’s not afraid to tell you that you could do better…if there’s a specific course somewhere that he thinks could help you, he’ll send you to it.”
In the summer of 2018, Dr. McNickle completed her fellowship. She says that in some ways she surprised herself by wanting to stay in Southern Nevada. “When I came here, I thought
Southern Nevada was just about the desert, the Strip and nightlife and gambling...but I found it was a city much like others with great outdoor recreation -- I love to hike -- and a great trauma center.”
Dr. McNickle grew up in Villa Park, a suburb of Chicago. Her father was a professor of theology and her mother was in marketing. A brother went into banking. “I’m the first in my family to go into medicine.”
Science and math were her favorite subjects in the public schools she attended. She says her parents were always supportive, even convincing administrators that she should skip ahead a year in math so she would be challenged and not bored by her studies. The fact that she often found herself in the distinct minority in higher math and science classes -- “girls were definitely outnumbered by guys in many science and math classes” -- did not bother her.
“I had things I wanted to learn,” she says, adding that when she wasn’t studying she was playing for the girls’ basketball team or participating in competitive badminton.
When it was time for college, Allison McNickle chose to exercise her independence and move away from home. “I was ready to go away but didn’t want a real big school.” Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, with just over 6000 undergraduates, was her choice.
There, her interest in science and math grew even greater. And she became a varsity member of the women’s rowing team. Graduating with honors, he realized she wanted to be closer to home for medical school. “It’s particularly nice to have social support when you’re going through that,” she says. She was accepted at Rush Medical College in Chicago.
“I pretty much knew I wanted to go into surgery from the get go,” she says. During her general surgery residency in Chicago, she soon understood that trauma surgery was her passion.
“I like thinking on my feet,” she says.
During her fourth year of residency, she handled a gunshot to the abdomen case from beginning to end. By the time her supervisor came in, she had successfully handled the situation. “That’s when I knew for sure that this is what I want to do, that I can do this.”
Often, patients and their families will stop by to thank her for lifesaving efforts at the UMC Trauma Center. “I may have sent them off to rehab on a ventilator and they come back talking...it’s a wonderful feeling to help someone. That’s what gets me up in the morning.”